New Recruits Episode 6: Judah Izsak Reads Garry Thomas Morse

If you’re new here, check out Episode 1 for more information about this series and how it works. This week, my brother Judah Izsak reads the final section of Garry Thomas Morse’s “The Rent Annals of Billy the Kid” from  After Jack.

From the moment I came up with the idea for this series, I knew I wanted somebody to read Garry Thomas Morse. I also knew that I didn’t want just anybody to read Garry Thomas Morse. I mean, everybody should read Garry’s work, but I needed a perceptive, clever, and feisty newb to read it for my blog. Judah turned seventeen last week. He’s been an outlaw for as long as I’ve known him. I gave him a choice of all of the sections in Garry’s serial poem. He chose this one. That was a month ago. Yesterday I asked him why he chose section ten. He said, “because it was at the bottom” (I texted Judah the poem options, this was the last one I sent and at the bottom of the list). I think that’s as good a reason as any.

“The Rent Annals of Billy the Kid” is my favourite section in After Jack. Here’s Judah reading the last bit of it—slow this time (because the first take was nearly 10 seconds shorter:

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Q&A

What was your first impression of the poem?

I thought it was intended for me, and I thought my sister made it

Which line of the poem do you like best?

“Remember when we chewed the phat/ Music of cicadas”

Why?

I remember listening to cicadas on camping trips and seeing them shed, phat seemed like a fitting word

What does this poem make you think of?

The midwest 

Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?

Phat

Would you like to understand them?

No

Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?

Nope #newrecruit

Do you have any questions for the poet?

Are your referring to the Billy the Kid, or somebody in your life that you refer to as Billy the Kid, or just someone that reminds you of Billy the Kid?


 

Can I just say that the fact that he thought I made this poem is maybe the best inadvertent compliment I’ve ever received.

Judah Izsak is 17. He is unemployed and he likes vintage posters.

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New Recruits Episode 5: Marilyn Solomon Reads George Bowering

Happy Wednesday and welcome to the first New Recruits episode of 2017! For more information about this series, check out Episode 1.

Marilyn Solomon is my grandmother, an amateur photographer, and a die hard baseball fan. No really. Look:

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My dad managed to get my grandparents two tickets to a Jays game when they made it to the finals last year. (Finals? Is that what they’re called? My baseball knowledge is limited.) My mom said that when my grandmother found out about the tickets, “she screamed louder than when she found out I was pregnant with you.” Die hard baseball fan.

So, here’s my Bubbie Marilyn reading part 1 of the iconic, pennant shaped, fuzzy book that George Bowering wrote for Jack Spicer: Baseball: a poem in the magic number 9.

 

Q&A

What was your first impression of the poem?

Majestic!

Which line of the poem do you like best?

“Satan was thrown out of the game / for arguing with the officials.”

Why?

Good over evil. Satan should be tossed out of every game. 

What does this poem make you think of?

Creation. 

Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?

“The Nine Muses”

Would you like to understand them?

Yes.

Does this poem remind you of any other piece of art or media?

Star Wars. The poem has a cosmic aura.

Do you have any questions for the poet?

Yes.

 


Marilyn Solomon’s interests are family, travel, current events and friends. Her hobbies are maj, canasta, movies and photos. She is a senior citizen and retired.

 

 

New Recruits Episode 4: Robert Izsak Reads Michael Boughn

As always, if you’re not caught up on this series and you’d like to know more about how it works, you can read the description in Episode 1. Now on to the good stuff.

Text conversation I had with my father prior to this episode:

me: “History or hockey?”

him: “oooh, that’s a tough one. I’ll have to take history.”

This was followed by a discussion about selling squash kugel on the black market? Don’t ask. Anyway, that “history or hockey” was a barely coded choice between two poems in Michael Boughn’s SubTractionsthe upside down back half of 22 Skidoo. 

My dad is an archeologist in a lawyer’s suit/office/Jewish surname. Our house is full of back issues of Archaeology Magazine and texts on ancient history. I was curious about the way Boughn’s 22 Skidoo/SubTractions might look to someone who hasn’t forgotten, who still sees/lives in a world defined by history, and whose relationship with modernity is nicely summarized here:

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(a small section of a conversation involving step by step instructions for how to work an iPhone. Oliver is a dog.)

Also, I fucking love this book. So here’s my dad reading “History Minus One”:

 

Q&A

What was your first impression of the poem?

It’s mainly about the wordplay. The meaning is too obscure*. The rhythm initially flows but then the final stanza runs on tripping up the reader with staccato outbursts. It didn’t leave an emotional residue.

Which line of the poem do you like best?

that dances back and forth / over bleeding body / of knowledge left in clotted / dust under sun’s withering / glory

Why?

The imagery. The language. The lasting nature of it.

What does this poem make you think of?

There are many references to Ancient Egypt and through the references it turns your mind to Egypt but only intermittently. There’s a mystic, other worldly focus that dominates the poem.

Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?

Not words but phrases and the meaning of their placement within the poem.

Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?

Yes. No.

Do you have any questions for the poet?

Yes. Two things. “Tanks” and “net packs earth” blows the rhythm, why are they necessary and were these your first choices?

*Since writing this, my father read the description of 22 Skidoo/SubTractions on BookThug’s website and responded, “Oh that makes a little more sense now.”


Robert Izsak is a middle aged man of medium build and a full head of hair, with an amorous cat in his lap and a strawberry sundae from Dairy Queen in front of him.

 

New Recruits Episode 3: Paula & Abigail Kenigsberg Read Suzannah Showler

Welcome to the 3rd episode of New Recruits! For details on what the hell this is and how it works, check out the description in Episode 1.

Just an FYI, there will be male poets and readers in this series. I was going for a more diverse lineup but for now it’s all women all the time and you’re just going to have to wait until Episode 4 for the boys to show up.

Paula and Abigail decided to take on this episode together. Paula is my aunt, my mother’s sister, and Abby is her daughter (my cousin). I chose this poem for them because it has a kitty in it (Abby has been known to wear cat leggings on occasion) and because its quick pace and colloquial interludes are only deceptively simple.

Abby reads the first half of Suzannah Showler‘s “Subjunctive Mood” and Paula reads the second half:

Q&A

Which line of the poem do you like best?

P: ‘For real,/ like, five percent of what we think/ is new’

(Abby refused to choose a line. I assume this means that she loved them all equally.)

Why?

P: Because I love the sound of it and it’s so true. People think they have these great epiphanies and they don’t really.

What does this poem make you think of?

P: Makes me think of the repetitive cycle of things and how we can focus on the unimportant and not really understand why we are here.

Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?

A: Subjunctive

Would you like to understand them?

A: Yes

Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?

P: Less rhymey (I know that’s not a word) and more talky (also not a real word). I guess when I was younger I expected poems to rhyme but now I don’t. Now I expect them to evoke thought and emotion which this one definitely did. I really appreciate that.

Do you have any questions for the poet?

P: No, but I want her to know that I enjoyed reading this poem.


 

Paula is 48 years old. She likes hanging out with family and friends. She is allergic to cats but owns two of them anyway.

Abby is 11 years old. She loves cheer, piano, acting, animals and reading.

 

New Recruits Episode 2: Janice Lee Reads Dina Del Bucchia

Welcome to the 2nd episode of New Recruits! For details on what the hell this is and how it works, check out the description in Episode 1.

Janice and I met at the University of Toronto in a physiology course that I wasn’t really taking. She sends me 85% of the cute animals I view online. For a while, her name on Facebook was Janice Dolphin Lee, so when I say dolphin is her middle name, I’m only half lying. I chose this poem for her because it’s as cute/ruthless as she is and because it has a dolphin in it.

Here’s Janice reading the first little series in Dina Del Bucchia’s Coping with Emotions and Otters“How to Be Jealous.” You can follow along with her for some of the poem in the amazon preview here. This preview is missing the last two parts of the poem (and the rest of the book) so you’re going to have to get yourself a copy if you want to read the rest. Highly recommend to new recruits and old recruits alike.

Did I mention that her reading voice is angelic and I’m mega jealous of it?

 

Q&A

What was your first impression of the poem?

I spent a good 15 minutes wondering how this was such a good fit for me. It’s like the author peeped into my life.

Which line of the poem do you like best?

‘before you/ realized these underwear/ would help you cling/ to a body/ you hated’

Why?

I totally resonated with that.

What does this poem make you think of?

Reminds me of my younger self’s struggle with self-love and how jealous I can be sometimes of a past-self or past-body rather. But also a lot of sadness for little-me for not understanding that I didn’t need to be so hard on myself. And then a realization that I don’t need to be so hard on myself now.

Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?

Treatise.

Would you like to understand them?

yAH – just googled it so I could pronounce it properly.

Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?

Kind of reminds me of Rupi Kaur? It was much more accessible than what I usually expect of poetry. It also had a deep well of rich meaning when I sat with them. These poems were much more visceral than what I’ve read for school and I like that a lot.

Do you have any questions for the poet?

Did you know you were writing this for me? haha just kidding but is this how you owned your experience of jealousy? Because I’m thinking of following suit. Going to cover my work with golden stars.

 


Janice Lee is currently in Optometry school. She’s a borderline Capricorn-Aquarius and therefore a water goat, but more accurately any marine animal including DOLPHINS AND OTTERS. She likes painting and hearing people’s stories.

New Recruits Episode 1: Lesley Solomon Izsak Reads Susan Holbrook

This is the first episode of a series called New Recruits. Every week (or maybe every other week) for as long as I have willing participants, I will release a new episode in which a person who doesn’t normally read poetry will read a poem and answer some questions about it. These poetry newbs will mostly be my friends or members of my family, but if you are reading this and you consider yourself a poetry newb and we don’t know each other very well, feel free to send me an email and I’ll hook you up with some good words. I have chosen poems that I think are particularly suited to the reader featured each episode. Of course, these are poems that I love as well, but that’s only part of the equation.

I have also decided to include only contemporary (AKA living) poets in this series for a couple of reasons. First, because I want the poets to be able to join in on the fun. It’s cool to hear somebody else read and respond to your work, and dead poets don’t get to have that experience anymore. Most of my favourite poets are dead, but there are also plenty of great living ones who would probably get a kick out of knowing what new readers like about their poems. Also, this past summer, I taught Jamie Sharpe’s Animal Husbandry Today (poem from this book to be featured in a future episode) to a class of grade 12 students. I sent Jamie an email afterwards to tell him that my students loved his book and that one very enthusiastic young lad read his bio on the back cover and said out loud, “oh, this guy lives in bumfuck nowhere” (an excellent description of Yukon Territory). Jamie wrote me back, “I don’t think I encountered a living poet, taught in a classroom, until my second year of university. To me, back then, being a poet was just as anachronistic as blacksmithing (funny that one of our best living poets, Michael Earl Craig, is also a blacksmith).” I’m including living poets because they exist and because they’re writing cool shit and because poetry should always be news.

In this episode, my mother, Lesley, will read a poem from Susan Holbrook’s book Throaty Wipes, published by Coach House in 2016. I picked up Throaty Wipes from Meet the Presses Indie Literary Market a few weeks ago. I have several favourite poems in this book—one that stands out as particularly fun and innovative is “Better Blowing”— but for my mom I chose part two of a three part suite called “Disposable Thumbs.”

Here she is reading it:

 

Oh, and a quick note, my mom didn’t have any context for the poem (who wrote it or when). This won’t be the case for every episode, just how it went this time.

Q & A

Which line of the poem do you like best?

‘It fed her and could / now feed me’

Why?

I think because it captures the amazingness of this organ that is rarely thought about. It is our first food and the line makes me wonder what it must taste like.

What does this poem make you think of?

I think of polenta even though polenta is never mentioned in the poem; it is only in the title. I love polenta, it is comforting and warm and had the consistency of baby food. I think polenta could cure depression just as eating your placenta could cure post-partum depression. It also makes me think of freshly baked bread from the oven. The baby is the bread and the placenta is the polenta. Also, I think of the temporary-ness of the placenta. It works so hard for such a short time and then it is no longer needed. But it was crucial. It also makes me think of meat. And kale. It makes me think of foods, cake, nourishment, love, and all the messiness that goes along with that. The good and delicious and the messy and the ugly.

Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?

‘vol-au-vent,’ but I looked it up.

Would you like to understand them?

Oh. I already looked it up.

Do you have any questions for the poet?

Did he or she eat a placenta? What did it taste like if they did? Did it make them feel good? How do they really feel about Kale? Do they like polenta? What inspired the writing of the poem? What do they mean by ‘uncontrolled meat’? What is their ethnic background?


 

 

Lesley Solomon Izsak is a genetic counsellor at Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital. She has also been a teacher of dance. She likes animals and old things and she has never eaten placenta.